Halitosis: Bad breath

How do you tell someone that he has a bad breath? Bad breath can happen to anyone regardless of age. It can be occasional or chronic


How do you tell someone that he has a bad breath? Is it really bad breath or it is just your imagination? If you have ever come into contact with someone with this condition, you will understand how embarrassing it's not to yourself but to the one who has it. Bad breath can be occasional and chronic. It is the third reason why people visit the dentist. If care is not taken, it would even affect your way of life.

In this article, you will be educated on halitosis and how to recognize it. Maybe your knowledge gained can help that friend of yours with halitosis or perhaps learn the way to prevent it yourself.


Halitosis is the medical term for bad breath. Bad breath is a foul-smelling odour exhaled in breathing. It can happen to anyone irrespective of age. It is difficult to examine one’s own breath. Normally, if you've got a bad breath, you will notice that people begin to back away from you whenever you begin to speak. Other times if you are fortunate, your loved one might inform you to save you from all the embarrassment. It can cause anxiety and lower your self-esteem as you start to doubt yourself whenever you go out publicly. To avoid such scenarios, you can attempt to examine your breath every morning before you step out. During this covid -19 period, it is easier to examine your breath under the nose mask.


Halitosis has various causes and hence, finding the cause can help you to eliminate it. Nowadays, many pharmacies and supermarkets shelves are being stuffed with gums, mouth wash and mints to fight bad breath. This will help temporarily unless the root for this condition has been discovered.

Generally, there are three main types of halitosis:

1. Genuine halitosis

2. Pseudo-halitosis

3. Halitophobia


Pseudo means false thus, individuals with this condition have no bad breath but they believe that they have this condition. They are the only ones to perceive the smell and require treatment despite the malodor not perceived or detected either by those around them or objective analysis. Many a time, they are asked to see a psychologist assist them. This  behaviour may suggest dysfunction in their chemosensory network.


Persons with halitophobia do not have bad breath but they assume they have thanks to other people’s behaviour towards them. They interpret other people’s behaviour, such as covering the nose, averting the face or stepping back, as an indication of their own bad breath, and such behaviours convince the patients that they have offensive oral malodor. This interpretation is the most common complaint of patients with psychosomatic halitosis. However, it has been shown that gestures such as covering the nose are usually not a reaction toward another person’s malodor. These gestures are performed incidentally, often without any specific reason, but they are misunderstood by halitosis patients.

Genuine halitosis

Individuals with this type are the ones who actually have the condition. It can be detected by others or examined objectively by a professional. Genuine halitosis can be sub-divided into two;

  1. Physiological halitosis

2.  Pathological halitosis

        Physiological halitosis  

Physiology simply deals with how the body or part of the body functions. Thus, for physiological halitosis, the tongue, usually the dorsal part malfunctions. This is because, bacteria, blood and cells(epithelial) form a coating on the tongue. The bacteria divides and produce this foul smell. It is different from the one we observe in the morning.

Most, if not all notice an unpleasant smell early in the morning after wakening. This is because the mouth is kept dry all night and bacteria use that period to feast on food debris on the tongue to produce the smell. However, after brushing one’s teeth and tongue, the smell goes away. This unpleasant smell is sour or stale. To minimize the smell, you have to brush your teeth before going to bed to cut back the activity of those bacteria.

Nevertheless, if you brush your teeth and forget to clean your tongue, they reside there and with time produce the offensive smell, unlike the stale morning smell we all wake up to. To prevent this type of halitosis, it is more important to clean the tongue than to use a mouth wash. This does not allow you to scrub your tongue mercilessly as you might end up hurting yourself or cause an unforeseen circumstance.

     Pathological halitosis

Pathology has to do with the behavior of diseases, suggesting that, this type of halitosis has to do with diseases. There are two main types

a. Oral pathological halitosis (diseases inside the mouth)

b. Extraoral pathological halitosis (diseases outside the mouth)

Oral pathological halitosis

Diseases such as gingivitis(gum) or periodontitis(bone) can cause halitosis. These diseases result in the inflammation(swelling) of the gum and bone which are the works of bacteria. The by-products secreted by the bacteria produce Sulphur compounds that cause the foul smell.

Additional factors that may influence this type of bad breath is dry mouth and smoking.

Drinking fluids will flush the bacteria and debris from the mouth and reduce their activity. Water will dilute and wash away the smelly waste products the bacteria produce. Also, saliva is the body’s original mouth wash as it contains substances that can kill bacteria and buffer their smelly waste compounds. If the mouth is dry, all these mechanisms are inhibited.

Moist vs dry mouth

Professions such as teachers, pastors or public speakers may obtain this condition because they talk for long hours without drinking fluids throughout their career. Also, a condition called Xerostomia which involves people with chronically dry mouths can increase the risk of getting a foul breath.

Cigarettes contain some of these Sulphur compounds in addition to drying the mouth as the person smokes. This synergistic effect results in bad breath usually observed from smokers.

Treatment includes proper oral hygiene, use of mouth wash and treatment of the main disease.

Extraoral pathological halitosis

The malodor may originate from a disease from the respiratory tract or upper digestive systems; tonsilitis, H. pylori infection.

Diseases that can result from other parts include; diabetes, liver cirrhosis, internal bleeding, menstrual cycle and so on.

The dentist will refer you to a physician or a medical specialist if this is the cause.

Foods such as spices, garlic, onions and alcohol can cause halitosis.  They are broken down in the digestive system and transferred into the bloodstream. As the blood passes through the lung, the broken-down molecules from these strong foods are exhaled and end in bad breath. Fortunately, this will pass within 2 days after the body utilizes it. To avoid this, such foods can be taken in moderation.

Bad breath is an condition that can be managed or cured. Know the causes and save yourself from an embarrassing situation today!



A young lady who is excited to influence the society and world with the knowledge she has acquired.